Stephen Gyllenhaal's Seattle, Where Robert Mak Is a Woman and the Comet Is a Coffee Shop

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It's a bummer when movies about Seattle aren't filmed in Seattle, as was largely the case with the WTO drama Battle in Seattle, which was mostly shot in Vancouver (B.C.). So setting aside the question of how a film about a Seattle-based mass-transit activist and city council candidate (who lost) could actually receive the financing to become, well, a film, the fact that Stephen Gyllenhaal has chosen to shoot the totality of his movie, Grassroots, in Seattle, is admirable.

But there are problems--hilarious problems--with Stephen Gyllenhaal's Seattle, which at times in the script (SW received a copy for review) fails to resemble the city in which we live.

The film is based on a book, by former Stranger writer Phil Campbell, about Grant Cogswell's 2001 challenge to incumbent city councilmember Richard McIver. In a cloying essay in this week's Stranger, Cogswell reflects upon having his life depicted on film, and notes that while Gyllenhaal's script is "rigorous when it comes to cultural and especially subcultural signs and meanings" (?), it is also "deliberately loose with the facts."

Uh, yeah. Por ejemplo:

- The Comet Tavern is magically transformed into the Comet Coffee Shop, which serves a ten-dollar sandwich called "The Grant Cogswell."

- KING-5 reporter and former mayoral flak Robert Mak is given tits (small ones, we imagine) and renamed "Roberta Mak."

- "Richard McIver" is supposedly ferried to and from his "mansion" in a "limo." Balderdash: We all know McIver prefers to drive himself home.

- On multiple occasions, Cogswell describes McIver (played by Cedric the Entertainer) as "pimping" light rail and other pet issues. In real life, if a white candidate described a black candidate as pimping anything, he'd have to issue a public apology at the behest of the NAACP. If he did it again, his candidacy would be effectively over. Although Cedric the Entertainer does sort of look like a pimp.

- In the script, the Stranger has a "mail room," and promotes those who work there to the City Hall beat. In real life, the Stranger has only a bathroom, and promotes those who clean it to the City Hall beat.

- Stranger visual arts critic Emily Hall is shown commuting to work in an '84 Volvo. While mid-'80s Volvos may be the quintessential Seattle rig, real Stranger staffers don't own cars, out of principle.

- Gyllenhaal's sceenplay implies that 30 people in their twenties attempting to collectively kill a keg at someone's house isn't the best way to spend a weekend; when, of course, it most assuredly is.

- Seattle Weekly's editor in the script is a "40ish" male who can't believe the Stranger would sack ace reporter Campbell ("the guy who dug up all that dirt on the Police Oversight Committee!"), and offers him a job. In truth, SW's editor then was a thirtysomething female, and no one who was on staff at the time can recall a thing Campbell wrote.

- I-90 and its surrounding area is described as "a mess! Dirt, crime, litter, pollution. Criminal!" We never knew Mercer Island (or even Rainier Avenue) was the Detroit of Washington.

- I-5 is referred to as "Highway 5," and features "innocent strips of grass." Those strips of grass were found guilty a long time ago.

- The film depicts the dramatic events of Sept. 11--including the collapse of the first tower, which Hall watches on TV from her desk. In the Stranger office. Which is described as "a flurry of activity". At what was 7 o'clock in the morning, Pacific time. The Stranger office hasn't been "a flurry of activity" at 7 in the morning since an accidental 1997 delivery of vegan donuts and cocaine.

- There's a character--a human--who goes by the name "SnowWolf." Evidently, the ridiculous moniker found its way into the script after an Iditarod dog rejected it.

- Hall's puppy is named Roger in the script, when in fact its true name was (and still is) "Keck's Taint."

 
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